Monday, November 28, 2005


I couldn't care less whether Australia got into the world cup finals or not. My understanding of the current discourse is that the above opinion, expressed within the context both of my infracultural and intercultural context, is in fact heresy and thus I do not make the claim lightly. As has been explained to me by a friend, all wogs, like soccer, ergo, all wogs like Australia playing soccer, ergo all wogs are happy that Australia won the soccer, ergo, as I am indifferent to Australia getting into the finals, I do not like soccer and ergo I am not a wog. Bereft of my identity through indisputable Cartesian logic, my friend then tried to confiscate my South Melbourne Hellas (another lectic heresy) membership card, the existence of which I had totally forgotten and rightly so.
One of the most enduring images of my indifference was watching Ray Martin ecstatically display footage upon his august program, of particularly swarthy fans of unmistakably eastern Mediterranean background dance, scream and hysterically re-affirm their commitment to Australia through a medium that has until very recently, been the preserve of a migrant subculture and one which has attracted the derision of the wider community in the past. In an age where the Grand Potentate of Parliament shrinks from using the term 'multiculturalism,' choosing to apply in its stead, the term 'integration,' it comes as no surprise that our media should focus in a sinisterly clever fashion upon the de-woggification of Australian soccer.
As Toula Nicolacopoulos and George Vassilacopoulos point out in their groundbreaking study: "From Foreigner to Citizen: Greek Migrants and Social Change in White Australia 1897-2000," the key forms in which we manifest our existence here are paradoxical. Though lip service is paid to communities forming their own organizations and sub-structures, the way in which this is done is heavily regulated and prescribed by the state, originally in order to keep sub-cultures away from the mainstream. As a result of such government-sanctioned behaviour, the sub-cultures remain isolated, suspect and constantly having to prove their loyalty credentials to their host country, that is perpetually unable to accept them as they are.
It is thus not without coincidence that Ray delights in the bunch of swarthies applying their own tolerated evil for the common good. For while 'ethnic' soccer is evil as it perpetuates and promotes discourses that inhibit the mass reception and adoption of dominant values, building upon its sub-structure and twisting it towards the greater glory of homogenous de-woggified Australia is a convenient way to channel minorities' separatist tendencies for the common good of the state. Viewed through this prism, the triumph of the Australian team is nothing more than a capitalization of years of hard work and dedication by 'ethnic' soccer fans. In their 'ethnic' manifestation, they were isolated and unacceptable. In their love for soccer permitting them to thoughtlessly cast aside their cultural identity or subordinate it to the game however, they are accepted by the mainstream and they sybaritically delight in this supposed newfound acceptance. What in actual fact it is, is a cleverly disguised insult.
A triumph for Australian soccer, would be the co-existence of 'ethnically' based teams, along with others who draw their supporters from diverse ways of life or geographies. What we have witnessed in the recent age, however, is the inverse and a mirror image of the community regime that Vassilacopoulos and Nicolacopoulos so cogently describe in their book: a mainstream purposely subordinating minority institutions to the level of sub-institutions and while allowing them to exist, effectively isolating them and at the same time creating a mainstream status quo, entry to which may be open to all but only if they openly espouse the dominant cultural discourse in its entirety. Sadly, in our naivety, we tend to read this gesture as an opening, or acceptance of the mainstream of our way of life. It is not. Rather, it is an ethnic cleansing of it and it is we, through our past nationalistic antics and promotion of civil strife, who have handed the mainstream with the tools with which they may justify their work.
Even if we did realize the agenda behind the mainstreamlining of the 'world' game, as opposed to the 'Australian' game with its own 'Aussie' rules, our own sybaritic and struthocamilic tendencies do not rouse the hysterical reaction displayed by this diatribist, in most of us, vis a vis our cultural identity. This is yet another aspect of the debate which is dealt adequately in Nicolacopoulos' and Vassilacopoulos' masterpiece, wherein they explore the idea that the concept of multiculturalism, as it has been understood and applied by various governments, relegates culture to a mere iconic gloss upon the dominant culture, a superficial addendum of difference, much like parmesan cheese on spaghetti, that may add flavour but in the end, is superficial and never of the essence of the main dish. Unfortunately, this approach to the co-existence of diverse cultures has vastly influenced the way we see ourselves. Our forms of national expression not only convey the message that we are harmless and interesting and thus to be tolerated, but act as a method for proving to ourselves that we exist, long after our acts and indeed that existence, has become bereft of anything other than superficial meaning. They are as much a panegyric or thanksgiving dinner to our hosts for permitting us to be centerfolds in the Playboy of social cohesion as the slogan of this publication: "keep in touch with being Greek."
That the gradual shift from multiculturalism to integration has been one of semantics rather than essential shift signifies the immoveable sub-stratum of our conceptual home. Try as we might to delude ourselves into thinking that we are accepted here, with all our accretions and discontinuities on an equal basis, on odd occasions, the definition despots assert their definitive rights proprietarily. When the Grand Potentate of Parliament, (whose vociferous contributions to the immigration debate of the eighties have been largely forgotten by the Orwellian proletariat and the ministry of Truth,) abjures the in essence useless word multiculturalism for that of integration, he is not prefiguring a departure from previous directions, only the gloss that served to mask them. What in fact he is doing, is re-asserting the doctrine of Terra Nullius, that is, that this land had no original inhabitants, and that we owe our existence and toleration to the good-graces and benevolence of the Anglo-Saxon colonists who appropriated this land for themselves and formed a government. It is therefore incumbent upon us as φιλοξενούμενοι, to accept our host's instruction as to the appropriate forms of cultural manifestation, as well as to the compulsory adoption of core values, until such time as the process of de-fragmentation is complete, as exemplified in recent statements by various politicians, some of Greek extraction, but whose precedents can be found in the playgrounds and workplaces of the 1950s, that the populace must accept "our" ways, or go back to where they came from.
The Greek term that we employ to describe ourselves: παροικία, is faithfully in keeping with the above doctrine. We are not within the οίκος or home but instead παρά, after, despite or ancillary to it, much like a symbiotic secretary bird picking ticks off a buffalo's back. As long as we perform our function obediently, we will not be shunted off into the billabong of origin, there to face the crocodiles that caused us to leave in the first place and it is worthwhile listening carefully to our purveyors of power, who have taken great pains to remind us of this recently.
So if there was a war between Australia and Greece, who would you fight for? Or to rephrase, if there was a soccer match between Australia and Greece, who would you openly support? Whatever the answer, you can be sure that the hawk eyes of the mainstream media will be fixed upon you, awaiting a chance for you to prove your disloyalty to your host and engage the suspicions of the dominants in your direction once more, possibly causing you to be vociferous in your support for the desired outcome. And who will I support? The Mongolian harmonic throat-singers of Tannu-Tuva, of course.

First published in NKEE on 28 November 2005

Monday, November 21, 2005


“When the personal life is cultivated, the family will be regulated; when the family is regulated, the state will be in order; and when the state is in order, there shall be peace throughout the world. From the Son of Heaven down to the common people, all must regard cultivation of the personal life as the root or foundation.” Confucius, Daxue.

A young boy growing up in the last vestiges of traditional rural Singapore, witnesses his ancestral village being razed to the ground in order to make room for a freeway. His family is relocated to a drab apartment block on Singapore’s outskirts and almost immediately, he finds that all of the traditional Confucian values he has been reared with, respect for culture, tradition and the past, are superceded and useless in a country that despite the Lee Kuan Yew rhetoric, has embarked on a vigorous monolectic of materialism, largely discarding the philosophical underpinnings of its substructure. The young boy, his own understanding subsumed by the demands of a racy, acquisitive and aggressively competitive culture, longs for the lost harmony of his childhood. He sets about taking photographs of whatever reminds him of the past, in order to re-construct it, something that in perpetually fluctuating Singapore, is tantamount to a quest for the Holy Grail.
I first learned of Ray Chua, photographer extraordinaire, via a frantic phone-call from Spiro Caras of Caras Music. “You got to meet this guy. He is absolutely fantastic. Imagine, a Kinezo photographing the Greek community.” I met him in an appropriate setting, the rear of Spiro Caras’ shop, replete with a stock of unsellable but priceless John Tikis CD’s, tsarouhia and various other ‘Greek’ paraphernalia, relics of the kitsch eighties, currently dormant and awaiting a comeback.
Ray Chua gingerly removes the cover from his box, and shows me the photographs he is exhibiting in Se.gue, the RMIT Photography Graduate Exhibition held at Federation Square’s Atrium between 13th November to 27th November. All of them are brilliant and inspired, an atmospheric capturing but not imprisonment of light, shade and shadow, the undulating and transitory dark or lighter moods of humanity or nature. Photography is by its very nature a dialectic of impressionism. Like Monet, it seeks to capture a specific moment in time but further, seeks to record that moment for posterity.
Ray Chua’s contribution to the dialectic of photography is decidedly Confucian. His work invariably captures his impressions of a moment in time but there is a monumentality and durability to it that not only renders it life-like and textural but further, dogmatic, unadulterated and absolute. Here then are the absolute, unchangeable truths, the li, the natural order that governs the world.
Even more remarkable, given Ray Chua’s quest to regain the lost lĭ through the photography of its trace manifestations, is his choice of subject matter. For incongruously enough. He has chosen as his subject matter, the Greek Community of Australia. He smiles as he is asked how his first contacts with Greeks: “I won a competition in Singapore to visit Greece in 2000. I visited Athens and several of the islands. I was completely taken aback by the complicity and authenticity of Greek culture. Here were the elements that I sorely missed from the dislocated culture of my homeland: a close family bond, the integration and free communication between generations, a sense of reverence for a belief system and a natural, uncontrived adherence to tradition. The simple sight of seeing a donkey, or watching a child run around the yard as his grandmother completed the household chores brought tears to my eyes. This humanity and bond with the past has defined my own personal quest and attitude to art.”
A few years later, Ray Chua, a sinised Odysseus, found himself walking down Lonsdale Street, Melbourne. “I had heard of the Greek precinct and decided to take it in. To tell you the truth, walking past the souvenir shops and restaurants, I gained an impression of a tokenistic, plastic presence that did not inspire me at all.” What was the clincher however, was the Antipodes Festival: “So many people, of all generations, getting together to celebrate their culture. What struck me was the natural way in which the community participated in the festivities. I knew immediately that I was dealing with a vibrant, authentic culture with real meaning for its adherents. You weren’t just paying lip-service to the past. Everything around me was relevant, from the dancers, to the musicians, the stalls…to see young people dressed in their national costumes and perform folk-dances…simply mind blowing. In Singapore, this is almost exclusively the preserve of the older generation and very uncommon….”
Ray Chua embarked on a voyage of discovery and ended up discovering himself in the process, through the Greek community. He set about documenting photographically, as many fundamental aspects of Greek culture as possible, using them as a parallel to his own Miltonian Paradise Lost, in the romantic aspiration that, the Greek paradigm points to it being regained. Ray spent the next four months infiltrating the most intimate sections of the Greek community, those that exist for our own eyes only, beyond the public facade: parties, celebrations, weddings. Of particular interest to him was the Greek Orthodox Church and his photographs of both the mysteries and churchgoers have an iconic Byzantine intensity and spirituality that Panselinos would envy. That in this changeable world of deconstruction, where all realities are fluid and in question, the fact that a pillar exists to secure people to those that have come before them but also, more importantly, to an ultimate Truth, is a concept that captivates Ray. I tell him about a friend of mine, a Singaporean convert to Orthodoxy who is now a cantor in the Antiochian Orthodox Church. “I’m not surprised,” he comments. “Whether you subscribe to the doctrines or not, you have a direct link with thousands of years of history and culture. We have 5,000 years of Chinese history but in Singapore, a very young country, it is slipping away rapidly. He points to a photograph of a line of students waiting to take communion. “There,” he says, “continuity encapsulated.”
Perhaps the most atmospheric, as far as portrayal of human nature is concerned, are Ray’s photographs of the frequenters of the slowly vanishing kafeneia about town. Ray’s discerning eye captures our first generation at its most uncontrived and unassuming. Action shots of card playing, a miniature of the greater game of life are thoroughly inspiring, as is the attention to the detail and expression on their care-worn faces. Every line, every wrinkle, every frown is a direct link with the natural order and continuity that Ray so craves. Capturing the native beasts in their natural habitats requires the patience of a David Attenborough and is not without its own dangers, as Ray explains:
“I had arranged with the owner of a kafeneio to visit and take photographs of its patrons. When I got there though and started taking shots, there was uproar. The old men did not want me there at all and were trying to kick me out. At first I thought it was because I was younger, not Greek and had invaded their personal space. Instead, as the owner explained to me, they wanted to have the chance to decorate the kafeneio and dress up so that the photographs could turn up nicer. Either that or they didn’t want their wives to know they were there.”
The photograph, by virtue of its corporeal form, is essentially a superficial art that can only purport to provide one with a key or pretext for fathoming the depths of what it purports to portray. Given the old men’s response to it, I ask Ray whether he noticed or suspected any disparity between the manifestations of what he was able to witness of the Greek Community behind his lens and its essence, a typically Buddhist concept. Did he for example, notice the crumbling, cheapening or erosion of any portion of the Helleno-Australian lĭ?
“Maybe you don’t realise how authentic your tradition is,” he replies in Mandarin Chinese. “Where else can you find such a heightened, vital intercourse between the generations? The Greek questions himself in the context of those who have come before him. This personal development still has the tradition of humanity at its core.” The arbitrary discarding of custom is what hurts him, not its evolution. For evolution presupposes an unsundered link of antecedents, while the materialistic world of his superimposed Singaporean reality, is the abomination of desolation.
As I left Ray Chua, whose Greek experience has given him the strength to return to Singapore, determined to fight for the retention of his noetic Paradise and the resolve to document the lives of the Greeks in Singapore, I pondered on how similar and how different we were. For it was in seeking to understand my own tradition in the context of the wider experience of humanity, unfettered by the constraints of nationalism, that I undertook the study of the Chinese language, music and philosophy, years ago. Ray Chua’s foray into the Hellenic world by exchange, was not a Gnostic one, but rather, a soteriological one. The quest for li, which unites and damns us, is diffuse as light viewed through a prism. And yet the tangible insight of Ray’s great soul, in the form of the photograph, is exactly that, pure light. No community has ever had a greater and more humble admirer.

First published in NKEE on 21 November 2005

Monday, November 14, 2005


When the Greek Consul-General was asked why he has never deigned to respond to the invitation of the Panepirotic Federation of Australia's invitation to him to attend the annual doxology celebrating the liberation of Ioannina and the declaration of the autonomy of Northern Epirus in 1914, he smugly retorted: "Well, what do you want me to do? Invade Albania and kill all the Albanians so that you can all go and live there?" On another occasioned, he warned darkly: "Stop referring to Northern Epirus and then we will talk."
Indeed, right up until the end of the Cold War. Greeks who dared to voice concern over human rights abuses against Greeks in Albania were generally referred to as hyper-nationalistic, ultra-right wing radicals by certain sections of the Greek community and the press. Even after the fall of Communism, when it was apparent to all that the 'paradise' that Hoxha's Stalinist regime was supposed to be, was nothing more than hell on earth, those persons who had built their reputation and pride upon the maintenance of their particular ideology, found it hard to sympathise with the hapless Northern Epirots who have been persecuted for well on a hundred years now. In scenes reminiscent of 1923, when Asia Minor refugees fled genocide to re-settle in Greece and were called Turks, the Northern Epirots who fled poverty and persecution to settled in Greece after 1992, were called Albanians and treated as objects of derision. Further, despite the fact that the various Epirot organizations that exist throughout the world have consistently striven to showcase human rights abuses in Albania, their task is Herculean. For they do not have to convince world opinion alone. Firstly, they have to convince a doubting or contemptuous Greek world that is totally ignorant of what lies beyond its front fence and which, in its smug bourgeois comfort, still persists in labeling people who are only interested in the human rights of the Greek minority in Albania as fascists, that a sizeable minority just to the north of them is being harried out of its ancestral home and that further, its persecutors are making demands on Greek territory.
The recent debacle in Albania, where President Karolos Papoulias traveled to the Northern Epirotan city of Agioi Saranta in order to meet Albanian president Alfred Moisiu is illustrative of this point. Papoulias cancelled his meeting because his hotel was besieged by "Chamerians" (descendants of Albanians who once lived on the west coast of Epirus, and who engaged in wholesale slaughter of the Greek population under German supervision during the Second World War. At its end, they fled to Albania, fearing reprisals and trials) variously demanding that Greece 'return' what we call Tsamouria to Albania or provide restitution for properties seized from Chamerians who 'fled' to Albania. There is enough evidence to suggest that the protesters were not 'Chamerians' at all, but rather, were bused purposely from Tirana in order to make a statement, a gesture that has all the hallmarks of operation of Albanian PM Sali Berisha. The Albanians refused to move the protesters along, in a huge insult to Greece and its president and further, had the gall to state that Papoulias, who rightly left the country in disgust, was at fault for his hasty departure.
In a way, Papoulias' fate is fitting. After all, it was he who as foreign minister of Greece in 1987, agreed to the dissolution of the state of 'phoney-war" that had existed between Greece and Albania since the Second World War. That this was an admirable action is beyond doubt. What however is not admirable is the fact that Papoulias unilaterally dissolved the state of war, without first requesting and/or obtaining guarantees for the safety of the Greeks in Northern Epirus and a guarantee that Albania's irredentist claims over Epirus would be officially abandoned.
Albania has never abandoned its 'claim' to Epirus and to add insult to injury, it demands 'compensation' for those criminals and slaughterers of innocent people, who abandoned Tsamouria in order to escape reprisals after the War. As Nikos Vafeiadis, Ant1 journalist discovered in the recent documentary screened on Ant1 Pacific and pulled off half-way, only to be replaced by music clips, Albanian textbooks, even the Greek ones designed for the Greek minority publish maps where the whole of Epirus up until Preveza are designated as integral parts of the Albanian State. History books portray Greeks as murderers and enemies. All the while, the Albanian government harasses the Albanian Orthodox Church, which it sees as a vehicle for Greek propaganda, abuses the electoral process so that the Greek party OMONOIA will not be elected, ensures that schools and other facilities are deliberately run down in areas where the Greek minority lives and generally encourages a climate of intimidation and hopelessness in minority zones.
Greece on the other hand, has totally abandoned its claim to Northern Epirus. That in itself is not to be condemned as Greece wishes to avoid conflict with other nations and ensure its own security. What is to be condemned though, is its wholesale abandonment of the Northern Epirots, who variously either migrate to Greece to live as second-class citizens or otherwise, remain in Albania, in extreme poverty, at the mercy of opportunistic demagogues in Tirana, who indulge in persecution once in a while, just to re-assure their nationalist supporters that they truly do hate Greeks. It is also condemnable that successive Greek governments, instead of dynamically intervening to guarantee the safety and well-being of the Greeks of Albania, have sought to 'close' the issue by allowing them to be harried out of their homes. The first generation of the Greek community in Australia knows how heartbreaking it is to have to leave one's home. Imagine how heartbreaking and devastating it would be to be forced out of one's ancestral home, when help could be had just a few kilometers away.
Nikos Vafeiadis, during his brief sojourn in Albania, learned to his horror that Greek books have not been sent to the minority schools of the area by the Greek government since 1994 and that the Greek government subsidy that was instrumental in keeping teachers of Greek in the area have also been discontinued, causing a mass exodus of professionals who could keep Hellenism alive. Contrast this with the vast bulk of Greek government books mouldering away unused in Greek schools around Melbourne, or indeed, with the unsubstantiated rumour that the Greek Consulate in Sydney requested money from SAE Oceania to pay Customs for Greek books that are to be sent to Tasmania, owing to impecunious circumstances. The smug, self-assured diplomats who condemn others' vociferous support of the Northern Epirots' rights to freedom from persecution by parodying them, insulting them and misrepresenting them, have not been forced to endure extreme persecution under Hoxha, nor have they experienced extreme poverty or have been forced out of their homes in sheer desperation. They are to be condemned worst of all, at least if one was able to reach them, given that at Melbourne at least, appointments at the Consulate are "fully-booked" until January.
It does not seem to be a good year for Greece. Greece seems to be losing ground on the Macedonian issue, it seems to have lost any sort of edge it ever may have had over Turkey and sits idly by as the Ecumenical Patriarchate is threatened by the Grey Wolves, with the tacit approval of the powers that be. Now Albania is repeating its irredentist claims and insulting the highest officer of Greece. And indeed, it is not the first time that Albania has done so. Moisiu attempted to raise the issue of Tsamouria with former President Kostis Stephanopoulos. Stephanopoulos, a fearless defender of the rights of the Northern Epirots, given that he is of Northern Epirot extraction, angrily dismissed this attempt and countered by demanding that Greeks be protected in Albania. Now Karolos Papoulias, possibly the architect of Modern Greek mishandling of Greco-Albanian relations, is learning to his chagrin that it is not wise to underestimate a neighbour who, despite your generosity, continues to treat you as an enemy.
Politics is politics and nations such as Albania and FYROM have moulded their national identity in spite of and as a reaction to Greece. Ridiculous requests over Tsamouria and petty Balkan irredentist principalities are comical but they should be taken seriously. The protester who maintained that Tsamouria is the key to Greek and Albanian friendship is absolutely correct. Leave of the Chameria hype, and we can be chums. What should be taken even more seriously is the fate of Greek minorities in such Ruritanias. After all, we can all take a leaf out of their book, in so far as they have maintained their identity under impossible conditions. It is not fascistic or quaint to actively assist these people and protect them from harm. One would think it is our duty as human beings.


First published in NKEE on 14 November 2005

Monday, November 07, 2005


Hero of the people and leader of the ‘Third Great Greek Civilisation’ Ioannis Metaxas slumbered fitfully in his armchair that fateful morning of 28 October 1940. Despite the official rhetoric, things were going badly with his regime. His friends the Italians, intent just as he was on making the world safe against namby-pamby and superceded democracy were flexing their muscle, not in the direction of the few freedom-loving but faltering liberal regimes that were just ripe for the plucking, but to the few freedom-despising fascist regimes that once cowed under the hob-nailed caligae of the Roman legionaries. Despite Mussolini’s obsession with his recent onset of impotence, there was no real reason for the Italians to jealously sabotage and blow up the long, hard and full of seamen submarine named Elli, off the coast of Tinos. Nor did their excuse, that they were looking for weapons of mass destruction and God knows, so were Mussolini’s mistresses, wash with the Greek public. What weapons of mass destruction? Since the invention of Greek fire during the Byzantine Era, the inflammable liquid that poured through a tube, could set ships alight on water, the only Greek development in the sphere of warfare was skordalia, a bulbous colloid, that when passed through the corporeal tubes of human digestion, produces a gas with immense fumigative properties, intelligent enough to genetically identify and stop racially superior Nordic tribes dead in their tracks. Rumour had it that skordalia was harmless against the more inferior southern tribes, who had been inoculating themselves Mithridates style against such assaults upon their olfactory nerves and peptic systems for centuries.
Metaxas was worried, though he had hitherto used the threat of skordalia as an effective deterrent to foreign meddling with the interior workings of his wise and benevolent rule, under which Greece had prospered like never before. The trains ran on time, and all of Greece’s rocky outcrops and deserted islands suddenly found themselves bursting in population. It was said that under his fertile regime, even the cows had multiplied, though experts, most of them now on the isle of Giaros, attributed the increased presence of methane in the Greek atmosphere to the warm emanations of the great leader’s mouth. Like those emanations, only he knew how unstable, commercially useless and unviable skordalia was and it was only a matter of time before the rest of the world found out.
Across the Adriatic, Mussolini paced up and down his marbled study. His scientists had just unveiled to him the blueprint for the Greek secret weapon, extracted from under the fungus-infested tongue of a syphilitic Greek sailor who had become too friendly with the practitioners of comfort at a homonymous establishment in Italian-held Rhodes. If what they told him was true, those ingenious and pestilential Greeks had found the long sought-after secret of DNA, the geneticist’s equivalent of the philosopher’s stone. He looked closely at the electron microscopic photographs. There they were, the sub-gene chromosomes XO, shared solely by all racially pure Greeks who had retained their honour unsullied by the depredations of the Slavs and Catalans, or the lusty ravages of the Mongolian hordes of the East. Hitler in his mad ravings on racial purity over a game of ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ was right, after all.
As Cicciolino, the head scientist explained, the XO sub-gene was a particularly obnoxious strain that had evolved after 1054. Apparently, prior to that time, everyone in Europe shared the X sub-gene, signifying «Χριστιανός». However, after that time, the evil Greeks had lapsed into heresy, refused to mend their ways and submit to Roman superiority and the gene mutated, becoming Χριστιανο-Ορθόδοξο. They were not like us, he explained. They refused to accept their values and what is worse, they created a vast axis of evil spanning the Balkans wherein they sponsored anti-Roman acts, terrorizing the hearts of all lax Roman prelates with their pernicious anti-Western doctrines. This new evil gene mutation was entitled Orthodoxy and it was inimicably opposed to their enlightened way of life. Though the Romans had in 1204 invaded the Gulf of the Bosphorus and had taken the chief headquarters of the terrorists, Constantinople, the primate of heresy and arch-terrorist, a black-clad fanatic in a long beard known only as “the Patriarch” had escaped. Incontrovertible evidence existed that his operatives, known as the “korakia” were being harboured, aided and abetted by Metaxas’ evil and ungrateful regime on a rocky and isolated mountain that was called ‘Holy’ and that indeed the said regime’s policies were determined and validated by them. Apparently, at the instigation of the korakia, skordalia, a heinous Χριστιανορδόθοξο concoction designed originally to keep non-Orthodox away, had been injected with a particularly fanatical strand of the XO gene. As a result, when applied or even exposed to the environment, skordalia immediately isolates and protects the XO bearers, while enveloping simple X bearers in a cacophony of demented torment. Strains of this which the Italian scientists had managed to isolate, after great trials and tribulations, included slogans such as “we built Rome,” “we invented everything,” “we invented democracy and philosophy,” “we gave you the lights of our civilization” and other highly subversive compounds that when combined with the inert Italian ego, would spontaneously combust, thus placing in stark potentiality, the mass destruction of the entire Latin World. Even as they spoke, the korakia were pressuring Metaxas to order his subjects to record their genetic make-up on their identity cards, for ‘research purposes only.’
Mussolini sighed. Those pernicious korakes were a menace to world culture. Souvlaki joints where skordalia was substituted with tzatziki were now all the rage, driving god-fearing pizza parlour vendors into penury. They had to be stopped and God, or the Pope, being the next best thing to Him, had chosen him as His instrument of divine retribution. “Fire off a telegram to Metaxas,” he ordered his foreign minister. Tell him to give up the secret of XO and desist from the production of skordalia immediately. Tell him he must permit League of Nations officials to investigate all kitchens throughout the land. Otherwise, muster the troops. We are going in. This will be the grand-pappy of all battles and we shall win, for justice and the Italianate way must prevail. We shall render the world safe for pizza production once more.”
When Metaxas received the ultimatum, he was seated at his kitchen table, gazing at a bowl of trahana and wondering whether he could pass it off as a dangerous quicksand that when applied to a European government, would envelop it in a destructive quagmire of Byzantine infighting and factionalism. Staring blankly at the piece of paper in front of him, he toyed with the idea of permitting weapons inspectors to enter the country. Yet would that not constitute an admission all his attestations as to the imperial might of the Third Great Greek civilization, were merely hot air? Would that not cause stronger nations, convinced of the superiority of their world-view, more eager to abrogate his country’s independence? Yet if he did not let the mask fall, would that not cause Mussolini to invade anyway? Metaxas sighed in resignation, realizing that his skordalia policy had hit a cul-de-sac. He resolved to go to bed; after all, the morning was wiser than the evening and by that stage, maybe he could come up with another deterrent smoke screen, like the properties of fasolatha to split the atom when passed through the endocrine system. As he prepared for bed, he laughed that his fascist cousins across the Adriatic, so opposed to Orthodoxy, would covert its very essence. He picked up his pencil and noted across the telegram, three letters, O.X.I? (Ορθόδοξοι Χριστιανοί Ιταλοί;)
It was only in the late morning that he discovered that his maid, mistaking his annotation as a reply, had cabled it back to Rome and that the ‘liberation of Greece’ had begun. Mussolini did not find any XO skordalia, or fasolatha or other weapons of mass destruction. Nor did Metaxas survive the war long enough to explain the misunderstanding. Despite a stiff resistance, the Axis powers overwhelmed Greece, splitting her up into three separate spheres of influence. They plundered her resources, destroyed her infrastructure and wantonly disregarded the lives of her inhabitants. They killed, maimed and tortured indiscriminately and when the country emerged from the horror of its occupation, it did so ravaged and brutalized to the extent where civil war was a natural consequence. No doubt had the Axis won the war, their pretext of searching for weapons of mass skordalia would have sucked the country into oblivion. We can only be thankful that western democracy and the rule of law triumphed, while totalitarianism and armed aggression have been consigned to the infernal realms, permitting the culinary truth to finally be told. Kudos then to the brave meso-oriental falafel eaters and a caveat: Qui non intelligit aut discat taceat.

First published in NKEE on 7 November 2005